Tyre by the Numbers

I just finished my series on Ezekiel’s prophecy of Tyre, and in one of the comments, we started discussing Ezekiel’s accuracy percentage. One commenter rounded off the accuracy to about 75%, which I thought was a bit high. This site gives Ezekiel about a 67% accuracy. But thinking of percentages made me curious, so I decided to break out the different parts of the prophecy to see how well he fares.

  1. Many nations: √
  2. Destroy walls: √
    • While this portion of the prophecy doesn’t say who will do this or when, I’ll go ahead and count it.
  3. Break towers: √
    • Same as above…
  4. Scrape clean: X
    • Nope, this never did happen.
  5. Place for spreading of nets: √
    • This one is actually not so clear. Does the prophecy mean that’s all it will be used for? I tend to think so, but since a lot of fishing is done there, we’ll go ahead and count it.
  6. Nebuchadnezzar come against it: √
  7. Neb destroy mainland: √
  8. Neb put battering rams against walls: X
  9. Neb break down towers: X
  10. Neb enter gates with army: X
  11. Neb trample streets: X
  12. Neb kill citizens: X
  13. Neb tear pillars to the ground: X
  14. “They” plunder riches: √
    • If this is talking about Nebuchadnezzar, then it’s false, but since this did eventually happen, we’ll count it.
  15. “They” destroy houses: √
    • Same as above…
  16. Cast the city’s debris in the sea: X
    • Again, while this did happen to the mainland settlement during Alexander’s siege, it never happened to the actual city.
  17. Stop songs/lyres: X
  18. Never be rebuilt: X

Out of 18 prophecies, I show him getting 8 right — an accuracy of about 44%.

But before we run with that number, let’s look at the kinds of things he got right and the kinds of things he got wrong. He successfully predicted that Tyre would be attacked by many different nations. Since there’s no timeline given, this could apply at any point in the future. That’s playing it pretty safe. He also accurately predicted that Tyre’s walls and towers would one day be torn down, its riches plundered, and its houses destroyed. So as long as at least one of these “many nations” eventually succeeded in defeating Tyre, this would be fulfilled as well. Finally, he predicted that Tyre would be a place where fishermen spread their nets. While I think this probably means that’s all it would be for (which would fail), we’ll go ahead and let it count. But at this low standard, fishermen would already have been doing this at the time Ezekiel gave the prophecy.

In other words, these are pretty safe predictions, and it shouldn’t surprise us very much that they eventually came true.

On the other hand, when Ezekiel got specific, his accuracy was much lower. While he was right about Nebuchadnezzar coming against Tyre and destroying its mainland suburbs (which seems to have already happened at the time he “predicted” this), he was wrong in every other detail. Tyre was never “scraped bare” and Nebuchadnezzar did not succeed in tearing down its walls, entering the city, and killing its inhabitants. While Tyre was eventually defeated, it was rebuilt.

If we look at his track record on the 12 specific and unlikely prophecies (#s 4, 6-13, 16-18), he only got 2 of them right — an accuracy of 16.7%.

39 thoughts on “Tyre by the Numbers”

  1. Hi Powell, hopefully a quick answer ….

    I am aware of both minimalist and maximalist schools in OT history. I would guess the truth lies somewhere in between. Yes, I accept that.

    “Evidence of philosophy – most modern philosophy thinking are atheistic
    Science – leaning towards evolution and debunks miracles
    History – stated earlier”

    I think about 40% of philosophers of religion are theist, but I don’t know how that matters. I think the philosophical arguments for the existence of God, overall and taken together, are persuasive.

    Evolution says nothing about the existence of God and I’ve never seen a successful scientific debunking of miracles, only a lot of question-begging assumptions. And I’ve seen plenty of good evidence for some miracles.

    The history of the OT has no bearing on the history I was talking about, which is New Testament history, which supports not only the existence of Jesus but also the historicity of the broad outline of his life and teaching.

    “So do you still trust your own human experience?”

    I have reasonable trust in my own mind and experience, otherwise I couldn’t exist as a human being. I imagine that is exactly the same with you. We couldn’t have this discussion and form opinions if we didn’t. But of course I know people are fallible, you as much as me (perhaps). But I didn’t mention my own experience in my reasons to believe, because I’m not relying on that.

    Hope that answers your question(s). Best wishes.


  2. I hope you’re not serious, unkleE, in claiming that the Gospels are more accurate than Ezekiel & Co. just b/c it is of the “biographical” form. You MUST claim the same caveats for them as for the OT prophets. Why?

    – What was Jesus’ lineage?
    – Where is the record of such a barbarous thing as the Massacre of the Innocents?
    – Who first showed up at Jesus’ “former” resting place–just Mary Magdeline, or Mary and the Other Mary? Were they there before sunrise or after? How many angels were there?
    – Exactly where, and after how many days, and to whom, did Jesus first appear after the resurrection?
    – Were all the graves around the Jerusalem area opened with the people walking around (no, I’m not talking Zombie Apocalypse, I’ll actually be serious and say that the people were raised Whole and Normal just as they were in life)? There is no record anywhere else that such an event happened, and that would be the BIGGEST, most news-worthy event in the world for, well, forever. Nothing like that ever happened before or sense!

    I’m not asking you to answer those specifically, b/c whatever answer you gave would be right. Or wrong. B/c there is at least one other scripture that would say something different. And I’m not wanting to argue those points at the moment b/c that would be a bit off topic. The point of bringing them up is the accuracy thing.


  3. Hi Eric, I’m actually Eric also, for what that’s worth.

    You just need to read the historians – not christian ones, but people like EP Sanders, Michael Grant or Maurice Casey – and you’ll see there is a significant difference between ezekiel and the gospels – not just in genre, but in the number and quality of sources and the fit with other known history.

    I don’t think many historians would allow difficulties like the ones you raise to stop them drawing historical conclusions about the gospels generally.

    Like I said re the OT, I’m happy to go by the NT historians too. I’m not sure why you would do any different. Thanks.


  4. Thank you unkleE (Eric) for the kind reply.

    I think that’s where we can agree to disagree. =)

    Cheers mate.


  5. Wow, you’re Eric, too? It’s like typing in a mirror…lol 😉

    Thanks for the author suggestions. I’m sure the Gospels aren’t made up (well, not entirely…”based on true events”), that they have historical grounding, but things like the Massacre of the Innocents and the Opening of the Graves seem rather tall hurdles to overcome.

    But again, thanks for the author references–I have a lot of reading to do! 🙂


  6. Powell, thank you too! (If there was tipping hat emoticon, I’d use it!)

    Eric,yeah, few historians think those things were historical. Of all those books, I’d recommend casey as the most recent.


  7. UnkleE, thanks for the reply. While I dont agree with your view, I am interested in it, as it is very different from what I have been exposed to in my life. I value it and appreciate your willingness to share.

    Does your congregation or church have a website? Often time churches have websites that offer additional information on their theology. I’m wondering if reading any of that would help me understand your perspective better? If so, could you provide a link?


  8. Hi William, thanks for your kind comments. I went back and looked at your story on your blog, and can see you have come from a different place than I have. I will comment a little there rather than here.

    I attend a church in a nearby suburb, have done for 13 years, but I don’t regard myself as part of that denomination. It is conservative and quite evangelical by Aussie standards (though not as much as many US churches would be I guess), and is no guide to what I personally believe. Previous to that I attended a very different church (much more liberal and oriented towards community welfare), and previous to that a very large Pentecostal church. So I have been in several different types of churches and all had things I agreed with and things I didn’t, but different each time. If I had to choose a “brand” of christianity I most identified with personally, I would be Anabaptist.

    But more on your blog, see you there soon!


  9. Interesting post, Nate.

    I’ve actually been to Tyre. It was in 1997, I think. My parents are Lebanese (Christian), and some of my family went back to visit. We were touring around and my wife and I were being driven by a family friend. We were crammed in the back seat in, of all things, a Trans Am. The driver, named Mohammed, drove like he couldn’t care less about life. It was terrifying. Cruising around at crazy speeds around blind corners.

    As you drive south from Beirut to Sidon to Tyre, you move from more liberal to more conservative. There were these billboards advertising sun lotion, I think, with a woman on them. The further south we drove, more of the woman had been painted over.

    Finally, Mohammed zipped into a city, stopped near the shore all of a sudden, sending us into the back of the front seats, turned around and in a thick Lebanese accent declared, “Welcome to Tyre!” (usually, they pronounce it Tsoor)

    We got out, thankful to be alive, and the place was really cool. There was the current city, and there was the old city. The old city was all ruins. And there were fishermen drying their nets. At least that is my memory of it… What I don’t remember is if there really were fishermen drying their nets, or if we just had a conversation about the prophecy. I’m pretty sure there really were fishermen, because my memory is that we were like “Wow! The prophecy!”

    It’s really too bad that it feels so scary to travel there. Lebanon has some amazing things to see. We saw lots of family, and saw Tyre, Sidon, Beiruit, Junei, Triploi, Baalbek, the Cedars, and ate loads of incredible food.


  10. That’s really cool, charles. I’d love to be able to visit that area one day — Israel too.

    As I was studying for this series of posts, I was struck by how fascinating Tyre’s history is, and how tenaciously the people of Tyre fought against Alexander’s siege. They were capable of so much more than I would have ever given them credit for had I not looked into it further. Makes me wish I had paid much more attention when we covered world history in high school! 😐


  11. Nate, I know you read my series on Tyre, and I know you saw the citation of the Joukowsky book. And you probably saw my quote of the statement by Flemming in his intro. You know the answer to this, and you know it’s not correct. You did not say anything about the “not be inhabited” part. You know you are wrong on this one, I did the research. We all make mistakes, I admit I do.

    Here’s the link to my final post, where the conclusions are:

    Also, here’s the summary conclusions:

    Even as far back as after the Nebuchadnezzar siege, Tyre lay mostly in ruins. But for 600 years after the Crusades, Tyre consisted of at most 50 or 60 impoverished families, a different ethnic group than the old Tyre, with a different language, who lived in total ruins, with not one of the old buildings rebuilt, “a city of ruins built out of ruins,” literally a place for the spreading of nets, so poor as to not have supplies. Here is where the bulk of Ezekiel’s prophecy was literally fulfilled. Such a city is a far cry from the Tyre of Hiram.

    Is the city of Tyre the same as that of the old Tyre? Flemming tells us no: “The present petty town of Sur has arisen since the Mutowalis occupied the district in 1766 A. D. Its humble story present little difficulty, but it is connected with the Tyre of history in location and name only.”

    It is telling that Joukowsky’s list of Tyrian kings covers a thousand years, but the list of Tyrian kings and governing judges stops with Azemilcus who was in place when Alexander slaughtered the city. (155-6) The last member of the Tyrian royal family was exiled to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. (Joukowsky, 52)

    C’mon, Nate………you have to admit at least this one. It’s so clear once you do the research.


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